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Penance for the scandals of the Church April 21, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, scandals.
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From Beliefnet comes a proposal from a Deacon for Bishops and deacons to perform public penance for the sex abuse scandals in the Church.  Fr. Z commented as well:

One repeated criticism of them has been that even in their apologies, they have resembled corporate executives rather than pastors. In a real sense, they have not yet responded, either as a body or as individual bishops in a Catholic enough way. All the more remarkable because of our rich tradition of public penance and outward signs of repentance and contrition, but unfortunately, to date, very few of our bishops have entered the public practice of our Catholic penitential tradition.

The Holy Father in the past couple of days has called us as a Church to penance, which is good and appropriate up to a point (because we are all part of the Body of Christ) but misdirected, I think, because the faithful were not responsible for the decisions that caused so much harm to victims and scandal. It is the bishops themselves who need to seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those who were harmed because of their failure to protect the most vulnerable members of their flock from abusive priests and to implore God’s mercy on behalf those clerics who molested children and young people (most of whom are unrepentant and evade all responsibility for their crimes).

So here is my question for you. What if our bishops chose to do public penance? What if they lay prostrate or knelt in front of their cathedrals as penitents before each Mass on the weekend closest to the feast of St.Peter and Paul or on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or some other appropriate day or days? Or, even better, on the first Friday of every month for the next year starting with the feast of the Sacred Heart or Sts.Peter and Paul? And what if we, as their deacons, as an order in the Church, in all humility, not only called on our bishops to do public penance, but offered to join them in it[OORAH!]

As deacons we invite God’s holy people to pray for mercy in the Penitential Rite. As deacons we call God’s priestly people to pray for the needs of the Church and world at every Mass. As deacons on Good Friday, it is our part to invite our bishop and priests and all the faithful to kneel in prayer.

Just as I think it is our part to call our bishops to do public penance, I think it is also our part to join them in penance as well. Clearly, our place is with our bishops: we stand at the side of our bishop during every celebration of the liturgy and the sacraments, ready to assist them.

I am all for penance – it’s something I should practice more often.  What do you think of public penance by bishops, priests, deacons, and even laity, for the sex abuse scandals?  I think it has alot of merit – at least as an expression of sorrow for our Church falling short of its high intentions.  Practically, the public might see it as a showy stunt, but I think if it were done regularly, and without fanfare – just done – it could really be a good start.  I commit today to doing more personal, private penance for the acts of these priests and bishops.

A debate out west, pt. 2 April 21, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic.
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Here in the 2nd part of this topic, I present the views of Fr. Michael Rodriguez, who takes a far more traditional view of Church Authority on issues of Faith and Morals:

It behooves me to emphasize the following truths to all the Catholic faithful of our diocese: Every single Catholic has the absolute duty to oppose the murder of unborn babies; every single Catholic has the absolute duty to oppose any government attempt to legalize homosexual unions.

The Holy Catholic Church has the power, given to her by Jesus Christ himself, to teach infallibly in the areas of faith and morals. Basing herself on sacred tradition and sacred Scripture, and in virtue of what is called her universal, ordinary Magisterium, the church teaches infallibly that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, a grave depravity, and mortally sinful.

This is an absolute truth — revealed by God — which all Catholics must accept and believe, period. If you don’t accept this church teaching, then you are, by definition, no longer in communion with the Catholic Church.

Rome has already spoken on this matter. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated, “all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions,” and “the Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to the legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

I know firsthand that this is not a popular teaching. Believe me, as a pastor of souls, I’m in the “trenches” on a daily basis. I too, have people who are dear to me, with strong homosexual inclinations.

Nevertheless, we must always strive to love God and

to trust in him: We must be obedient to his commandments whatever the cost. This is what it means to be a true Catholic.

If God establishes a commandment, it’s because he loves us and wants us to get to heaven. The Catholic Church seeks, first and foremost, the salvation of our souls — we must trust in her teachings above all else, and live by them.

If you are homosexual and are valiantly struggling to be true to our Savior Jesus Christ and his church, take courage! Keep up the fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and entrust yourself to the maternal protection of the Mother of God! Know that you are in my prayers.

The action taken by City Council is gravely harmful to the common good of our city and contrary to a proper understanding of justice. As Roman Catholics, we are obligated to undo the wrong that they have committed.

This is certainly a “religious issue” because people are trying to redefine marriage and morality.

The trite and superficial arguments which are being set forth in support of homosexual activity are seriously flawed. Not one person has addressed the moral issue of right vs. wrong, which forms the necessary rational foundation for notions like “justice” and “compassion.”

For example, this foundation is the reason that we oppose pedophilia. It’s not that the perpetrator is not “equal,” nor do we consider this “discrimination,” because our “rational” sense of right and wrong “trumps” everything else.

Moreover, homosexual supporters are ignoring the necessary distinction between the person and his actions; and none of them have acknowledged that the preponderance of the scientific evidence is firmly against genetic causes for homosexuality.

My friends, who’s forcing beliefs upon whom here?

We’re not the ones using deceptive lingo, e.g., “partners in a committed relationship,” to “force” a redefinition of marriage upon society. We’re not the ones “forcing” taxpayers to support a skewed notion of “equality.”

In closing, I welcome anyone, especially religious and political leaders, to a public debate on this issue.

I’d say that Fr. Rodriguez is getting his debate.   There is nothing really new here, these are the views the Church has espoused for millenia.   That so few people today seem to understand this is a sad reflection on Catholic formation. But, things are changing.  People have seen the results of radical innovations run amock for 40+ years, and they don’t like them.  The younger generations are increasingly orthodox in their views.  Christ will continue to lead his Church in Truth, as He always does.  Eventually, this too shall pass.

A debate out west, pt. 1 April 21, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic.
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There is an ongoing debate out in El Paso regarding a proposal to extend same sex partner benefits to all employees of the City of El Paso.  This has apparently posed quite a controversy in that area, and the local Church has become involved.  The Church in the area is apparently rather split on the issue, and the debate has now spilled over into a more general discussion on Authority.  Two priests recently had op-eds appear in the newspaper on this issue with widely divergent views.   In the first of a two-part series of posts, I’ll present the op-ed by Fr. Ed Roden-Lucero, who tries to argue that the Church does not proclaim infallible Truth on Faith and Morals and that the Truth of the Church, such as it is, is constantly evolving:

For the benefit of all people of good will regardless of faith, race or orientation, I write to offer a broader pastoral, scriptural and ecclesial perspective compared to that offered by Rev. Michael Rodriguez, (Church Opposes Redefinition of Morality, March 21).
An appropriate starting point is a question proposed to Jesus in the gospel and his response to it. When asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus replies first with the well-known commandment to love God “with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But then he adds, “The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mk.12:28-31).

Pope Paul VI once said of this verse, “The unequivocal order of love of neighbor, which is the acid test of love of God, demands of all people a fairer solution to social problems.”

The second Vatican Council 1961-1965), in its effort to advance the common good, praised and affirmed the dignity of every human person, without prejudice. Because of this dignity, the Church teaches that “there must be made available to all people everything necessary for leading a life that is truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely, to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, and to respect (Gaudium et Spes, 26),

The action of City Council to extend health insurance benefits to all its employees, regardless of marital status, was not an effort to codify or legislate marriage or sexual morality, but simply to provide a benefit that the Church itself declares to be a human right. In light of this teaching, it was incorrect for Rev. Rodriguez to say that the action of City Council is “gravely harmful to the common good of our city.” Consequently, it is also a mistake for him to say that Catholics, or anyone else, are “obligated to undo the wrong.”

Rev. Rodriguez dogmatically states many absolutes that are not, in reality, dogmatic absolutes. It was erroneous for him to base his position regarding City Council on the claim that the Catholic Church has taught “infallibly” on the issue of homosexuality. In fact, the Catholic Church has never taught infallibly on this or any other moral issue, although, it does teach binding moral principles on many issues. The Church also teaches about the absolute supremacy of the individual conscience enlightened by the Gospel of Christ. God alone is the sole judge of the human conscience. These two principles are absolutes in Catholic moral theology.

We believe that God continues to be revealed in human history and in the life of each individual person. God’s divine plan continues to be made manifest in theological, anthropological and scientific thought. History reveals that the Catholic Church has, at times, failed to recognize this divine manifestation. There are two well-known examples. First, the Church’s magisterium, (eg. pope) erroneously condemned Galileo for his claim that the sun and not the Earth, is the center of our solar system.

Second, sadly, the magisterium either endorsed or turned a blind eye to 17th century slavery. So, now, in the 21st century, to avoid error, the Church, assisted by theologians, scientists and anthropologists, has to study the real preponderance of scientific evidence that homosexuality may be innate and not an elective lifestyle. Human sexuality, like all of human life, remains a mystery and a gift of God.

As this issue evolves in our ecclesial life, the Catholic Church must always open its arms in welcome to all and, defend the rights and dignity of all persons in accord with the will of Christ. In this way, the Church remains the community of faith that brings good news to the poor, liberty to the oppressed, sight to the blind and healing to the brokenhearted.

I want to correct a few points of Fr. Roden-Lucero’s views.  His use of the ‘Galileo controversy,’ as an example of the Magisterium being wrong is a really poor choice.  The Church was not a hidebound organization bent on holding back science – it was in fact espousing the dominant scientific opinion of the time that the Earth was the center of the universe.  Galileo’s version of heliocentrism in fact could not be proven, and it took another faithful Catholic, Copernicus, to convince the scientific world and the Church of heliocentrism.  Galileo got in trouble for making fun of the Pope and for trying to stir up controversy after he could not adequately defend his hypothesis.

The statement that the Church ever turned a blind eye to slavery is categorically false and it is shameful that a priest would use such an easily disproven view.   The Church, through various documents and Popes, has been opposed to slavery since Roman times.  In the period Fr. Roden-Lucero describes, the Church issued condemnations of slavery under Gregory XIV, Innocent XI, and Benedict XIV.  “From the 15th century Catholic missionaries, theologians, and statesmen never ceased to strive for the abolition of ignominious traffic in human beings.”  In fact, the Church even threatened excommunication to unrepentant slave traders in the West Indies, helping to limit that practice.

Why does this matter?  Because Fr. Roden-Lucero is trying to establish that the Church is not infallible in the area of faith and morals.  The Galileo example is non-sequitur, as that has no bearing on faith and morals.  The slavery example does have bearing, but there is copious evidence to disprove Fr. Roden-Lucero’s erroneous argument.  

Fr. Roden-Lucero believes in a mistaken interpretation of Guadium Et Spes and its discussion of the liberty of individual conscience.  This incredibly poorly worded, ambiguous section of that document has been one of the cornerstones of those who have sought to undermine the Church’s Authority to set clear, binding doctrine on issues of Faith and Morals.  This belief is a novelty, because it has never been the view of the Church that individual conscience trumps revealed Truth, and it is a view subscribing to the hermeneutic of rupture, since it so clearly breaks with the past.   Our consciences are free only insofar that they subscribe to the Truth the Church proclaims, otherwise, we are the worst of slaves, slaves to sin. 

This is the modernism, folks.  The fundamental belief of modernism, and its post-modern offspring, is that there is no fundamental Truth, the truth is only what feels good to us.  In reality, that good feeling tends to only last a short while and most often leaves disaster in its wake.  But, too many people have accepted this modernist belief because it conforms to selfish pleasure and seems a far easier path.  This is a deadly dangerous doctrine that has led to incredible suffering in the Church and poses a grave threat to the souls of those who fall prey to it.

Pray for our seminarians April 21, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, scandals.
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I’m sure many of my readers pray regularly for our seminarians.  That’s a very noble act.   And, there are innumerable reasons to do so.  The lure of  the world, difficulty in discernment, temptations, dying to oneself and taking on a huge cross for Christ, these are all very challenging things.  Fr. Z and the Telegraph’s Damien Thompson offer another reason we should pray for our seminarians – having too great, or too ‘orthodox,’ a Catholic faith:

In my US seminary days, we had to hide going certain places, such as parishes where the priests believed in One God, Creator of heaven and earth, etc.  One of my classmates was thrown out because he had a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in his room (“exaggerated Marian devotion”).   Latin liturgy?   Ha.  In my Rome seminary days, it was anything having to do with the older form of Mass.  Some men were yelled at because they went to St. Mary Major and visited the tomb of St. Pius V … on the feast of St. Pius V, the new calendar’s feast of St. Pius V. 
In many ways times are changing, and they have been for a long while.  But there is still a long way to go.  It is better in some places than other.  The restoration, the “Marshall Plan” is taking effect, after the devastation.  It will work, but there is still resistance in some places.

From the blog of Damian Thompson:

English seminarians who follow Benedict are keeping their heads down

By Damian Thompson

This isn’t news to English seminarians, but perhaps other Catholics are not aware of a situation I find rather shaming.

If you’re a seminarian or prospective seminarian who wishes to implement the liturgical renewal inspired by Pope Benedict XVI, it’s best to keep fairly quiet about it. Things aren’t as bad as they were a few years ago, when any seminarian caught reading Ratzinger would be tested for “psychological immaturity” by a feminist. [That’s the sort of thing that was happening in my US seminary over 20 years ago.  If that is going on in English seminaries, still, they are … how do you say this delicately … a little behind the curve.] The worship in certain seminaries has moved on from the 1960s to the 1980s (hence the discreet shoulder pads sewn into those zip-up albs) [LOL! ZOT!] and staff have reluctantly accepted that tomorrow’s priests will be more conservative than they are (not difficult, in truth). But it’s still not safe to express too much enthusiasm for the Extraordinary Form, lest you identify yourself with fringe Catholics like, um, the Pope.

Oh, and don’t be caught reading this blog.

There is a list of blogs they shouldn’t be caught reading, or books.

“Excessive Marian devotion.”  Yes, it’s a shame to have a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother.  I knew this kind of thing was a serious issue in seminaries in years past, but it is discouraging to hear of it still going on.  I have read and heard stories for years of very good, orthodox young men being run out of seminary because they were too devoted to the traditional doctrine of the Church, or were not comfortable with the sexual excesses ongoing in various seminaries, or were attracted to Latin Mass.  All, in essence, were removed from seminary because they did not possess sufficient zeal for that misbegotten concept, “the spirit of Vatican II.” 

Given the frightening shortfall in the number of priests, on one level it seems amazing that anyone could think kicking devout young men out of seminary would be a good idea.  But it’s important to remember that one of the tenets of that ‘spirit’ is that we’re all entitled to serve as priests, and aiding a crisis in vocations  may have served that end.

Fringe elements like the Pope, indeed.  Let us also pray that Pope Benedict remains Pontiff for many more years.